Bones of Burgos
He wasn't King of France, nor did he establish a hereditary monarchy in France, nor did he establish a police state in France, nor did he re introduce Slavery in France, when he became King of Sweden his loyalty was bound to this country, he would have betrayed Sweden resigning and becoming King of France.
@tomholmberg A little lost in translation
@tomholmberg Other governments, such as the Austrians, also had secret police, and organizations along that line have been 'normal' for the Russians for quite some time.
From the Napoleonic Revolution by Robert Holtman:
‘The Imperial police has been slandered. It was arbitrary, that was in its nature; that's why in free countries people disapprove of a so-called [ministry of] general police…For my part, I can guarantee that, in all the ministerial correspondence, I never saw anything that could offend the conscience of an honest man, and I often found there liberal principles that would vindicate, if that were possible, an institution condemned at all times by public opinion…If one considers the obstacles and the perils that ceaselessly threatened the Emperor and the Empire, I can guarantee that in terms of arbitrary actions the imperial police remained far inferior to the police in states that were more solidly established.'-Antoine-Clair Thibaudeau, prefect of Bouche-du-Rhone.
@tomholmberg Further, it is noted in Robert Holtman's The Napoleonic Revolution that the political and social problems in Great Britain during the period were quite serious:
'...because of Napoleon, British repression of the lower classes lasted longer than would otherwise have been the case. Even prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution there had been a demand for reform of Parliament. William Pitt the Younger as Prime Minister favored it. The Revolution and then Napoleon, who was viewed as the embodiment of the Revolution, brought a postponement of parliamentary reform until 1832. Instead of being inclined to concede any reform, the ruling upper classes in Britain adopted a policy of severely repressing any untoward activity. Thus, unmoved by the widespread suffering caused by the economic dislocation following the wars against Napoleon, the British government took harsh measures against the massive demonstrations of the discontented working class. The upper bourgeoisie and the aristocracy felt that their successful conclusion of the wars proved the perfection of the existing political and social systems of Britain; anybody desiring change was therefore irrationally dangerous.'-203.
But again, why is it a valid criticism of Bernadotte, but not of Napoleon?
I don't recall anyone defending Napoleon's secret police, placing it in context maybe. I do recall people saying if they criticize Napoleon one can't bring up the fact that everyone else was doing it, but it seems when some other historical figure is criticized it's okay to bring up Napoleon.
@tomholmberg I don't recall anyone defending Napoleon's secret police either.
You have brilliantly pointed out an outstanding double standard when the anti-Napoleon crowd criticizes Napoleon. Very well done, as usual.
This ‘it’s only wrong if Napoleon does it’ meme is an extension of the victim hood narrative Napoleon himself established at St Helena. And it is just as (in)valid.
Two wrongs have never made a right, and the ‘it was common practice’ defence was not very successful at Nuremberg or the International Criminal Court either. Extraordinary claims require exceptional proof. By all means sail ‘The Great’ or paragon of virtue ship, but be prepared to repel borders to maintain it.
It might surprise many to know that some of us are perfectly reconciled to our own countries’ faults and past leader’s character flaws. When we critique Napoleon it is not out of insecurity or out of defensiveness or a desire to take part in some pointless and rather childish zero sum game.
My Grandfather passed round the hat for Kier Hardy. I was quite proud growing up to learn about Cobden and Bright or the Tolpuddle Martyrs at my father’s knee. I studied British Economic and Social History at school, where we spent a considerable time on Peterloo. To characterise them as ‘problems’ betrays a reactionary view and infers that it means a British person’s argument is somehow less worthy because of them is specious.
This British social history is part of a struggle that continues to this day. We already achieved some basic human rights, like universal healthcare free at the point of need over 70 years ago. I can understand why those from what John of Gaunt calls ‘less happy lands’ who cannot even achieve this in the 21st century, might think that this is over. It isn’t, and if anything we Brits are more proud of our social achievements than our military record. If anything we are mostly ashamed today of our empire and what it did.
So when I hold Napoleon to account for his reimposition of slavery, I’m not doing so in comparison with some modern ‘politically correct’ view. It is against the contemporaneous moral arguments of Wilberforce, Mores and Sharp. Even when Napoleon admitted himself that it was a mistake and that he should have made Toussaint Louverture an ally, it is still defended by these weak “he was a man of his time” and “it was only wrong when Napoleon did it” memes. Because that’s what they are, not arguments but flimsy and ineffective memes.
If we want to engage in real historical debate we should consign them to the bin that is Twitter, where they belong.
With that in mind, why is having a secret police a criticism of Bernadotte, but not of Napoleon
Did he govern France?
@tomholmberg Bernadotte's price for joining the allies, one of whom-Russia-was Sweden's traditional ally, was the acquisition of Norway from Denmark.
The best anecdote about Bernadotte was Carnot's refusal to surrender Antwerp when summoned to by Bernadotte's ADC: Carnot addressed the 'deadly smooth refusal' to 'a prince, born a Frenchman, who knows so much about the standards of honorable conduct.'
Another corker about Bernadotte is from 'soldier yarns' which has Bernadotte 'demanding a parley with the commander of a French-held fortress in Germany.' Apparently 'the sentry promptly shot at him; Bernadotte protested and was told the sentry had merely tried to apprehend a French deserter.'
@tomholmberg And like Moreau he betrayed France and fought against it. Moreau paid for his betrayal by getting shot down and mortally wounded at Dresden in 1813.
Thankfully for the French he did not. He was a person of dubious character and unreliable as a subordinate and comrade. That's why Davout said of him 'Le Miserable Ponte Corvo.'
It should be remembered that in 1799 as ambassador to Austria he was 'mobbed out of town' by the Viennese and following that 'outstanding' performance, he became Minister of War and was forced out by the Directory ('his unrealistic strategic inspirations soon caused the Directory to accept 'the resignation I have not given').
Desaix though of him as a 'fanatic' which can be construed as being a Jacobin extremist.' For that last comment, Desaix mentioned that he was 'not loved.'